Concerns on N. Delaware District Plan tackled

MARIA S. YOUNG / TIMES PHOTO

Community leaders gleaned a mixed bag of information during the third and final public meeting for Philadelphia2035’s North Delaware District Plan on Dec. 16 at Holy Family University.

For some, the open house-style session provided reassurances that the staff of the City Planning Commission had listened to residents’ earlier recommendations for development in the affected portion of Northeast Philly. For others, some of the information on display in a series of poster boards was relatively surprising, or just plain confusing.

In any case, the plan is still in a draft phase. Community members may comment on the record to the commission before a final plan is approved and published early next year. The stated purpose of the plan will be to guide development in the affected neighborhoods over the next 20 years. The North Delaware District includes all or portions of Wissinoming, Tacony, Mayfair, Holmesburg, Upper Holmesburg and Torresdale.

Several members of the East Torresdale Civic Association were among the first to arrive at the 90-minute meeting seeking answers to a few questions raised at their own monthly meeting two nights earlier. Rumors had been swirling that the district plan was going to call for the installation of sidewalks in a rustic section of large single homes near the Glen Foerd estate. Another concern among neighbors was that the sprawling James D. Morrissey Inc. property on Frankford Avenue south of Linden Avenue would be re-zoned from residential to commercial. ETCA members predominantly oppose both ideas, according to the group’s First Vice President, William Kennedy.

In a search for conclusive answers, Kennedy went to one of the displays that showed zoning recommendations for the district. While some zoning changes were being proposed elsewhere, the Morrissey property was not one of the locations. The road-construction company has used the site for decades to store heavy equipment, but the underlying zoning is for single houses. Neighbors say they want houses built there because the area already had a glut of commercial properties, many of which are vacant.

On the sidewalk issue, the City Planner Larissa Klevan, who is coordinating the North Delaware District, told neighbors that there are no specific plans for the Glen Foerd area. But there is a general desire to improve pedestrian safety between the Torresdale Station (at Grant Avenue and James Street) and Glen Foerd (at 5001 Grant Ave.).

Kennedy agreed that some improvements are needed along the 4900 block of Grant Ave., where an overpass on a blind curve makes walking dangerous. The intersection of Grant and State Road may also be improved. But residents strongly oppose sidewalks along the 5000 block of Grant, which is a one-way loop street used almost exclusively by residents and Glen Foerd visitors.

Elsewhere in the district, the leader of the Upper Holmesburg Civic Association, Stan Cywinski, was also glad to see that no zoning changes are proposed for the Morrissey property. Meanwhile, the draft plan does reflect the community’s wishes for the future use of the former Liddonfield Homes public housing project, Cywinski said. The proposed uses include a housing facility for low-income seniors, including those in need of assisted living.

Mia Hylan, a board member for the Mayfair Civic Association, was surprised to see an artist’s rendering of the Republic Bank at 8764 Frankford Ave. showing its conversion to a theater. The bank does, in fact, occupy the former Mayfair Theater site, which also features an open-air square with park benches and planters. Community groups often use the square for pop-up markets, food festivals and holiday-themed celebrations.

But there is no indication that the bank is leaving. Mayfair folks would like to see some beautification projects in the area, along with better traffic control, Hylan said.

State Sen. John Sabatina had his attention focused largely on proposals for the Tacony waterfront. Last month, he hosted a meeting of the Senate Democrat Policy Committee to discuss prospects for waterfront development throughout the state. Tacony has several properties that would suit large-scale development including the former Disston Saw Works, the former Dodge Steel plant and a former metals recycling yard.

“If you build an attraction so people will have a destination point instead of going downtown, it will lift up the community,” Sabatina said. “It would be an economic engine.”

City planners are floating a combination of office building, retail and recreational development for a mile-long stretch of the waterfront north of the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge. They even have a working name for the project: “Mixed Use Employment Center at Disston Mills.”

Barbara Rupp, chairwoman of the Northeast Quality of Life Coalition, is a Tacony resident. She’s glad that the incoming administration of Mayor-elect Jim Kenney opposes the construction of a new city prison on the waterfront. She also thinks that it would be a good idea to incorporate green construction principles to any new development, such as solar energy panels on rooftops.

On the other hand, Rupp opposes a proposal contained in the draft plan to re-zone Longshore Avenue, east of Torresdale Avenue, to multi-family residential. Rupp fears that the change would open the door for unscrupulous landlords to operate short-term boarding houses.

According to Klevan, the city planner who oversees the district, feedback from last week’s open house will be added to the draft plan. The new draft will be shown to the Planning Commission at its January meeting. From there, a final public comment period will last at least 30 days. The final step would be for the commission to approve the final version of the plan. ••

Building plan: The third and final public meeting for Philadelphia2035’s North Delaware District Plan was held on Dec. 16 at Holy Family University. One major concern among neighbors was the zoning designation for the sprawling James D. Morrissey Inc. property on Frankford and Linden avenues (pictured above). MARIA S. YOUNG / TIMES PHOTO